Republicans will hold chairmanships and strong majorities on key spending and tax panels, with members on the budget committee nearly split between supporters of the two main candidates for speaker while House Speaker Clay Schexnayder’s backers hold more sway over the tax panel, according to the assignments released Thursday.
Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, installed Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, as chair of the House Ways & Means Committee and Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, as chairman of the House Appropriations committee.
Over the past several months, a crop of Republicans waged an at-times acrimonious battle for House speaker, with influential GOP officials and donors backing Albany Republican Rep. Sherman Mack. But Schexnayder put together a coalition of 22 other Republicans, including a key ally in Bishop, along with all 35 Democrats and two independents, to win the speaker’s gavel. Forty-five Republicans voted for Mack, who had the official endorsement of the House GOP delegation.
Appropriations is where the state's spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 begins its journey. Ways & Means is the first stop for any tax measures as well as legislation for deciding which construction projects state government will fund or guarantee to lenders.
Republicans will hold wide majorities on both panels. They hold 16 seats on Appropriations, while Democrats hold eight – two more than last term – including Vice Chair Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, and one representative without party affiliation.
On Ways & Means, Republicans have a 12-6 edge over Democrats in the committee makeup. Only four Democrats were on the panel last term. From January 2016 to January 2020, Ways & Means was chaired by a Democrat, Rep. Neil Abramson, of New Orleans, but few revenue-raising or fiscal restructuring bills made it out of the committee. Schexnayder sat on the panel last term.
Bishop, who the speaker named Thursday to chair Ways & Means, previously was a candidate for speaker before becoming one of Schexnayder’s key allies. Bishop dropped out after Page Cortez locked up the votes to become Senate President, saying he had little chance of becoming speaker because both he and Cortez are from Lafayette. Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley and another Schexnayder backer, is vice chair of Ways & Means.
Appropriations for the past four years was led by then Metairie Republican Rep. Cameron Henry, who had been a strong contender for House Speaker in 2016 but ultimately threw his support behind the winner, Taylor Barras. He remained one of the House's key leaders and took a conservative tack toward budgeting, often sparring with Gov. John Bel Edwards. Henry is now a state senator.
While Henry is replaced by Zeringue, the committee makeup does include several of the more conservative Republicans who have taken an antagonistic stance toward the Democratic governor. Rep. Lance Harris, formerly head of the House GOP majority, current House GOP leader Blake Miguez, R-Erath, and Baton Rouge Republican Rep. Rick Edmonds, who proudly voted against revenue-raising measures last term, are among the representatives who backed Mack in the speaker's race and landed on the budget committee.
In all, those who voted for Schexnayder have only a 13-12 edge on the Appropriations committee, while 14 of the Ways & Means members backed Schexnayder and four backed Mack.
The next big test to indicate which way new legislative leaders will lean on budget issues is Friday afternoon when the Revenue Estimating Conference meets.
Cortez and Schexnayder make up half the four-member panel that decides just how much money the state has available to spend. All four members must agree on the same figure.
Last month Henry, still a member of the House and sitting in for Speaker Barras, voted not to go along with the other three members and held up officially recognizing a higher revenue forecast. Edwards has to propose in February a spending plan balanced to the recognized revenue figure. Without agreement, the governor's proposed executive budget legally should reflect last year's lower available money. Last year, Barras and Henry blocked the revenue forecasts for several months, then approved a higher revenue amount in time to keep legislators from passing a budget that dramatically cut spending for the myriad of programs and services provided by state government.
Neither Cortez nor Schexnayder, both of whom were sworn in Jan. 13, have said which way they will go on the REC vote.
Here are the lists of committee members on both committees:
House Appropriations Committee:
1 No Party
Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, chairman, R-Houma
Gary Carter, vice chairman, D-New Orleans
Roy Daryl Adams, No Party-Jackson
Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville
Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge
R. Dewith Carrier, R-Oberlin
Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City
Daryl Deshotel, R-Hessmer
Mary DuBuisson, R-Slidell
Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge
Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans
Lance Harris, R-Alexandria
John Illg Jr., R-Metairie
Frederick Douglass Jones, D-Monroe
Timothy Kerner, R-Lafitte
Rodney Lyons, D-Harvey
Tanner Magee, R-Houma
C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge
Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro
Blake Miguez, R-Erath
Dustin Miller, D-Opelousas
Troy Romero, R-Iowa
Francis Thompson, D-Delhi
Christopher Turner, R-Ruston
William “Bill” Wheat Jr., R-Ponchatoula
House Ways and Means Committee
Stuart Bishop, chairman, R-Lafayette
John Stefanski, vice chairman, R-Crowley
Gerald “Beau” Alphonse Beaullieu IV, R-New Iberia
Ryan Bourriaque, R-Grand Chenier
Marcus Anthony Bryant, D-St. Martinville
Rhonda Gaye Butler, R-Ville Platte
Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice
Leslie “Les” Farnum, R-Suphur
Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans
Barry Ivey, R-Central
Jeremy LaCombe, D-New Roads
Wayne McMahen, R-Springhill
Buddy Mincey Jr., R-Denham Springs
Richard James Nelson, R-Mandeville
Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport
Neil Riser, R-Columbia
Malinda White, D-Bogalusa
Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans